About 27 miles northwest of Birmingham, the town of Sumiton is a tightly-knit community heavy on Southern charm. The town has two veterinary practices so your pets can stay current on check-ups without going far. Sumiton is also great launching point for urban exploration in the state’s largest city or outdoor adventure in the northern Alabama hills.
Dora Park, just outside the Sumiton city limit, is a lovely place for a walk. Accessible from the back of the park, the paved 5-mile Horse Creek Trail stretches from Gains Street to the northern tip of Horse Creek Golf Course. Or, visit the Convict Field ballpark in Sumiton: you can run off some energy on the sunny walkways around the fields, or just settle in the bleachers and watch local teams duke it out.
If your pups are eager to get out of town, note that the massive Bankhead National Forest is only 28 miles north with more than 180,000 acres begging to be explored. The forest’s Corinth Recreation Area has a 1.3-mile hiking trail and plenty of space to play on the banks of Lewis Smith Lake, plus a public boat launch and hot showers in case you get muddy wrestling Spot in and out of the boat. If that’s too wild for your taste, get some retail therapy in Birmingham. The Homewood neighborhood is particularly tempting thanks to the hand-crafted rawhide treats at Whole Dog Market made from local and humanely-raised beef.
The city of Jasper, 15.5 miles north of Sumiton, is just busy enough to add some excitement to your day without the hassle of Birmingham. Jasper is a park lover’s paradise with nine community parks to choose from. The creekside walking trail and new fitness-themed cardio trail at Gamble Avenue Park are particularly peaceful. The city’s largest park is in the historic North Highlands neighborhood: Memorial Park offers a one-mile walking track that circles the duck pond, plus acres of sports fields and playgrounds to explore. If your pups work up an appetite, they’ll enjoy the meaty menu as much as you will at Full Moon Bar-B-Que, a dog-friendly eatery just a few miles east of Memorial Park on Hwy 69.
Rickwood Caverns State Park in Warrior, Alabama is just over 15 miles from Sumiton. The massive caverns themselves are open for human-only tours, but above ground the dog-friendly camping and hiking at this 380-acre park will delight the entire fur family. If your Blue likes looking for clues to the area’s rich history, he’ll spot some along the mile-long Fossil Mountain Hiking Trail, where prehistoric fossils are visible in rocks you’ll pass as you follow this flat, easy loop that begins and ends near clean human restrooms. Small compared to many state parks, the pet-friendly campground at Rickwood Caverns is a cozy spot to stay for the weekend and make new furry friends.
With Downtown Birmingham a mere 27 miles from Sumiton, your pups will surely want a taste of the big city now and again. It would be easy to spend a day just walking the wide sidewalks of Central City. Pups appreciate lovely flourishes like the Rotary Trail greenway along 1st Avenue and the pocket-sized Unity Park adjacent to University of Alabama-Birmingham campus. For bigger adventure, enjoy the 19 acres of Railroad Park where the Central City and Five Points South neighborhoods meet. With a 0.75-mile outer loop trail around the park’s perimeter and paths that wind among the many water features and creeks, there’s plenty of room to run.
Turkey Creek Nature Reserve in Pinson is just 28 miles from Sumiton, and worth it for the hiking trails and swimming spots that your pups will thoroughly enjoy. Do be careful to keep a firm grip on the leash if you have inexperienced dog-paddlers: Turkey Creek has level-1 whitewater rapids, and even the peaceful swimming holes can have strong currents. For exercise without wet fur, try one of the four easy walking trails that range from the 0.35-mile Boy Scout Trail to the 1.4-mile Thompson Trace Trail. If your pups have long legs, you might even try the moderately difficult 3.2-mile Narrows Ridge Trail.
The Clear Creek Recreation Area is located 29 miles north of Sumiton and is your gateway to Bankhead National Forest. Clear Creek has dog-friendly camping, some excellent splashing opportunities in Lewis Smith Lake, and the scenic 2.5-mile Raven Interpretive Trail. A bit north of Clear Creek on the main highway through Bankhead National Forest, look for the turnoff for the Natural Bridge Picnic Area. If you follow the paved walking trail just 0.38 miles into the hardwood forest, you’ll find a naturally-occurring stone archway — an awesome sight for you and perhaps a unique backdrop for Fido’s next photoshoot. No running water is available at Natural Bridge, so bring plenty for you and your fur family.